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Erotic Heritage Museum opens with wild party

Las Vegas- Las Vegas got its very own sex museum this weekend, and Saturday’s opening-night party was even wilder than you’d expect.

Three women in the crowd wore black “gimp” masks and submitted themselves to be bound, spanked and … other stuff.

At one entrance was Larry Flynt’s gold-plated wheelchair. Next to it stood Jimmy Flynt (Larry’s brother), telling me about Hustler’s new investigation into politicians: “I don’t know if he will release it before the election.”

And for the first time in his 10 years on the Strip, an Elvis impersonator performed a ceremony where a guy married himself.

Proclaimed Elvis (Kent Ripley): “I’ve done guy-guy, girl-girl, I’ve done two animals — someone’s dog to someone else’s dog — and someone’s dolls. But this is the first time that’s happened.”

The Erotic Heritage Museum itself impressed those of us who have visited New York’s Museum of Sex. Vegas’ museum is airier, cleaner and features as many antique adult flicks from the silent film-era and nearly as many mechanical wonders in the vein of the Arch Back (Sex) Machine. Vegas’ museum displays more paintings, illustrations, sculptures and contemporary video-art installations by respected artists.

“We have pieces in there worth hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said the Rev. Ted McIlvenna, who conceived of the space with funder Harry Mohney [pictured], founder of Déjá Vu strip club next door. “This is real art. This is serious art.”

He’s right. It comes across as nothing less than a fascinating, full-frontal museum.

Since this is Vegas, not one protester showed up to picket. Of course, that also meant there were no TV news crews outside to add controversy and, thus, publicity. Flynt knows all about that kind of media spectacle.

“If the religious right or the church didn’t protest (Hustler), we wouldn’t be here,” Flynt said.

Then again, religious fundamentalists (and traditional feminists) would probably find the museum much less objectionable than the abutting strip club.

Besides, America is a different place these days. The sex museum is not as naughty as Hustler’s magazines and DVDs, which themselves are “almost passé” compared to adult Internet sites, Flynt said. Even Flynt tells you porn is currently TOO readily available.

“The feds used to get on us for showing” vagina, he says. “Now, 6-year-olds get porn free” online. “That’s not right. The business community has to get its act together. Either you’re going to stabilize the viewing market, and you’re going to protect the children, or you’re not.”

As for the rest of the museum, Flynt was impressed.

“I’ve never seen one in America that is this large and dedicated to human sexuality in the 20th century,” he said.

One of the many artists on display, Paul-Felix Montez, contended the museum is perhaps most important in terms of rounding out Las Vegas.

“Now that you have 2 million people (living in Vegas), you can’t have a city without culture. It’s, like, struggling to get art here. It’s struggling to get culture here,” Montez said.

“What happens when you want to go from a small town to a big city? That’s the biggest dichotomy in this town right now,” he said. “And most people don’t even know there’s a ballet here or a philharmonic.”

Elsewhere around town, some sex clubs and massage parlors have been shut recently. There are religious forces that object to various sex-related public spaces, which largely make Las Vegas “Las Vegas.”

Montez hopes those anti-adult activists don’t go after more spaces dedicated to sexual endeavors, notably a local franchise of San Francisco’s Power Exchange, a family-run club that markets to straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender fantasy role-playing.

But if anti-adult forces do target Power Exchange, they’ll face a formidable battle.

“They’ve got a war chest of $10 million to fight legal bills,” plus top-tier lawyers, Montez said. “They really have the ability to fight back.”

There were plenty of religious people at Saturday’s opening. The thing is, they were inside enjoying themselves.

Keith Murray — the guy from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, who married himself — spoke of Buddhist mantras in his vows. He walked down the aisle dressed like a half-man, half-woman. The right side of him was all mustache and necktie. The left side was pink dress, pink stocking, pink feather shoe, lipstick and mascara.

He vowed “to liberate endless, blind passions” and recognized his “strange beauty and amazing pain.”

“I thee wed myself,” the bride-groom said, after Elvis proclaimed Murray “husband and wife.”

Murray blew kisses to the crowd. He tossed his garter and his bouquet. Among the witnesses were coronet-hatted Sin Sity Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, led by their abbess of the order, Sister Loosy Lust Bea Lady, who congratulated the bride-groom, then led her HIV-activist sisters to gay bars to hand out safe-sex kits.

Murray, describing himself as transgender, then explained to me that, just as his video installation in the museum suggests, men and women can’t find peace until they marry their inner opposing halves, the masculine and feminine.

“Marrying yourself is much like marrying God when you’re a nun,” he said.

He will be honeymooning in Hiroshima.

Very few people had any idea the museum would be so, well, museum-like.

“I’ve been in the (sex museum) in Amsterdam,” said party guest Shawna Clawson. “This one’s a little more mild, but considering our culture, compared to theirs, it’s what you’d expect. They’re a lot more open and free” in Amsterdam. “The pictures here are more arty.”

Even fewer people had any idea that the grand opening would include a man marrying himself.

“I should have married myself. It would have been a lot simpler,” Clawson joked.

And almost no one had any idea a group of BDS&M women would be getting, uh, sexually manipulated.

“When you think you’ve seen it all,” Elvis said, “you see something else.”

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